Coronavirus was detected in Massachusetts drains at higher levels than expected, suggesting that there are many more undiagnosed patients than previously known, according to a new study.
Researchers from biotechnology startup Biobot Analytics collected samples from a sewage treatment plant for a named metropolitan area at the end of March, according to a report Tuesday on medRxiv.
Eric Alm, one of the authors of the study, who has not yet been reviewed by the peer, stressed that the public does not risk being affected by the virus from particles in the wastewater, but they may have the potential to indicate how widespread the virus has become, Newsweek reported.
“Although these viral particles are no longer active or can infect humans, they can still have genetic material that can be detected by a method called PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which amplifies the genetic signal many orders of magnitude that create billions of copies of the genome for every starting virus, ”Alm told the outlet.
The researchers, along with a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard and Brigham and Women̵
But at the time of the test, there were only 446 confirmed cases in the region, according to the study.
“It was interesting that our estimate was definitely higher than the number of confirmed cases in the area,” says Mariana Matus, CEO and co-founder of Biobot, according to Stat News.
The researchers shared their findings with local health officials, who said it was likely there were hundreds of undetected cases.
“They could believe it [our] the numbers may be accurate and not out of the way, says Matus to the outlet.